Designing for Sensemaking

I recently read a fairly new book by Tony Russel-Rose and Tyler Tate called ‘Designing the Search Experience’. As the title implies, this book gives good advice and examples on how people’s information seeking patterns should guide the design of user interfaces.

Now, I’m not going to give you a full book review, but I do however want to share how to “design for sensemaking”, from chapter 2 in the book.

Designing for Sensemaking

Researchers, analysts, and other intelligence and knowledge workers are often faced with having to make sense of in-depth information. Despite the complexity of the human mind, its mental capacity is limited and will experience problems when having to deal with large amounts of complex information. However, thanks to digital support tools, users can construct and browse through external information which often leads to insights that would easily have been overseen without these tools.

The book here refers to Pirolli and Card (2005) who reports on three common practices used by intelligence analysts to conduct “large-scale sensemaking”; the shoebox, theevidence file, and the schema.

The shoebox
The shoebox; collecting potentially relevant data and storing it in one place. Priority here is not primarily on quality, but to fill up the shoebox as quickly as possible with potentially relevant information. Therefore, the user interface needs to support this process by providing quick ways of saving a particular piece of information, e.g. a checkbox.

The evidence file
Once all the potentially relevant information has been gathered in the shoebox, a more thorough selection and filtering takes place where interesting pieces of text or images are extracted and saved in a more refined collection of information; the evidence file.

The schema
The schema provides a good overview of how the information (evidence) relate to each other. It is constructed by grouping the information together based on type; a so called taxonomy. By categorizing the information like this, it is made easily searchable and allows for continuous exploration of information, enabling users to gain insights and make sense of large amounts of information!

More information about this book and where to buy it, you can find here: